Month 7 Day 30
Lt Negron looked up when Smitty entered the computer specialist’s office, and stood to greet him. “Good morning, Mr Smythe.”
I’m not in the mood for polite banter. “Kindly explain the nonsense you sent me this morning on C- on Lt MacDowell’s computer knowledge!” He crossed the small office and threw himself into the visitor’s chair.
Startled, Negron considered him uncertainly. “I thought my report was pretty straight forward.”
I’m not impressed by the way he thinks. “You also thought Lt Harris had left her computer on, and that you could easily shut off the alarm on MacDowell’s computer.”
“Ahh, yes. I did,” Negron agreed, and started to sit down. Smitty let his scowl deepen, which made Negron stand up straight again. “I gave Lt MacDowell 3 tests, beginning with-“
“I saw all that,” Smitty snapped. “After she passed 3 tests with the kind of scores I might expect from a computer specialist, you somehow arrive at the conclusion that she failed? That’s the part I don’t understand!”
Negron swallowed. “I can understand your confusion, Mr Smythe. I thought about those grades for days, trying to figure out how she did it. I still don’t know, but…” He licked his lips nervously. “Look, she got the usual training in computers that all communications cadets get. But that training would not have gotten her the kind of grades she-“
“So obviously, she cheated!”
“Yes, sir. Without the training-“
Smitty tried not to grind his teeth. “Mr Negron, did you join the fleet with the intention of being a computer specialist?”
“How did you prepare for that specialty, before arriving at the academy?”
“I took a heavy load of computer courses in secondary school.”
“And before that?” Not everybody needs formal lessons in order to learn.
“I’m… not sure I knew what career I wanted, but computers were an everyday experience in my life as a child. We used them at school, to do homework, to research…”
“So you actually started learning about computers by using them.” And that’s the only clue I’m going to give him. If he can’t figure that out…
“I… I suppose I did. But everybody uses computers these days. They’re a learning tool for babies, even before they’ve learned to walk.”
“So they are.” The fool still doesn’t understand my point. “Call Oakhurst.”
Negron hesitated. “Lt Oakhurst is probably asleep, Mr Smythe.”
“Then wake him up!” Smitty bit out.
Negron gave a jerky nod and punched a code into the intercom on his desk. After a brief wait, a groggy voice asked, “Is this important?”
“This is Negron. I sent my report to Mr Smythe today, and-“
Smitty raised his voice to drown out the babbling. “Mr Oakhurst, are you awake enough to remember an assignment I’m about to give you?”
“Just a second.” Smythe heard Oakhurst quietly say, “Computer, start recording this call.” The senior computer specialist took a deep breath, sounded somewhat more awake. “Okay, I’m ready.”
Smitty nodded. “Lt Negron sent me a report today that does not make sense. I’m kicking it to you. Figure out how much the crew member mentioned in the report does or does not know about computers, and explain how you come to whatever conclusion you reach. And try not to take 12 days to do it.”
“Yes, sir. Anything else, sir?”
“No. You can go back to sleep.”
“Computer, stop recording.” The line went dead.
“You and I will discuss this further,” Smitty told the young man still standing in front of him. “After I get Oakhurst’s report. Because that will tell me if you’re a genius who single-handedly caught a crew member cheating to get qualified in a specialty she hasn’t shown much interest in… or you’re a blithering idiot who misjudged a crew member because he didn’t like her.” He got up and left, still angry and… confused.
Smitty headed back for his office on the other end of engineering. Negron is an idiot, to think that Colleen must have cheated because she passed all the tests he gave her! All 3 of them! He caught a glimpse of someone hurriedly stepping out of his way, but didn’t even look up, he was so engrossed in a maelstrom of jumbled thoughts. Yes, I did something kind of the same. Only I think I can cut myself a little slack, since she never passed any tests that I gave her. And I wasn’t ready to dismiss her because I didn’t like her. Quite the opposite, in fact. Space, I’m in a mess.